Why traditional Civil Disobedience is the wrong approach in the climate fight

When you think of direct action on the climate crisis, you would probably first think of Extinction Rebellion protestors blocking London bridges; or some other big disruptive protest in which people get dragged off by police, and the mainstream media talk about how terrible it is that people were slightly delayed in getting to work. I’m not against large, peaceful protest, but I don’t think traditional civil disobedience is the most effective way of putting pressure on governments. The tiny benefit isn’t worth getting arrested for.

The most effective method of pressurising governments and businesses in my opinion is the mass refusal to participate in the endless growth based economic system. This can take the form of working less hours or not at all, not buying things we don’t need, as well as more targeted boycotts of certain products or services. And you don’t have to get thrown in a police cell for your troubles either.

One of the easiest and most crucial things we can all do right now is moving our money out of financial institutions that support the fossil fuel status quo. This can be complicated when it comes to pensions. But for bank accounts, it’s easy to switch to a more ethical bank; and there are automated tools which transfer your scheduled payments across as well. You’ll still have to change any accounts that use your debit card manually, but it’s no different than when your card expires and you get a new one. It’s no great hardship, and very much worth the effort.

Another hugely important element of the strategy of deliberately tanking the economy is housing. In many cultures, it is normal to live in multi-generational households for your whole life. I’m not necessarily suggesting that; but certainly in the western world, people are often a bit too keen to move out of home very young, and parents have been told that this is a good idea over many decades. I think it’s unnatural to want to separate ourselves from our families so young, and we should take the opportunity to live together for as long as families enjoy it. Obviously it’s not going to suit everyone for various reasons. But if you get on well, it’s definitely a very effective method of doing the opposite of what the system wants you to do.

This is also one area where boomers can have an outsized influence in the climate fight. They tend to have the money to be able to support their kids and grandkids to be full-time activists. Everyone who is able to not work while also spending as little as possible is hugely important. Imagine if everyone who was able to do it did so. The economy would be in ruins (as far as the elites are concerned anyway), and the government would be forced to change tack (or just get annihilated in the next election).

Interestingly, the effect seems to be happening already thanks to our incompetent and uncaring government. The latest jobs data in the UK shows that there are more job vacancies than people actively looking for work. The suggestion by experts and the media is that this is entirely due to hundreds of thousands of Brits being (possibly) permanently incapacitated by Long Covid, which the government allowed to happen through their intentionally useless handling of the pandemic; from the beginning really, but particularly the last 10 months since “Freedom Day” in July 2021.

Clearly I don’t want to tank the economy by people being unable to work. I want it to be a choice, but it really demonstrates that we will get there by hook or by crook. This government is so cruel and at the same time so stupid that they can’t even do economic growth right. Having said that, I don’t think that it is entirely down to Long Covid. There must be quite a few people like me who refused to go back to work during covid and subsequently checked out of the economy; and those numbers will keep increasing. Especially now with the cost of living crisis that the government of course chooses not to solve. I can imagine young people renting flats giving up on that to return home, and possibly cutting back their work hours too, if not quitting entirely. Why work your arse off in a system when you never get rewarded for it anyway?

To sum up, I fully support all climate protests, but we need to get smart and use the establishment’s precious economy against them. And you can see that it’s going to work. Even just this “worrying” jobs report has the government and terrified, and that’s of their own making. It wouldn’t take much concerted action at all for them to feel more pressure than they’ve ever felt from every climate march or protest in history, combined. They don’t care if you go and protest, as long as you still drive a car and go flying off on holiday. If we refuse to work and stop spending money, they will be panicking almost immediately; along with the bankers, investors and economists. We all saw what a house of cards neoliberal capitalism is during the first covid lockdowns. It won’t take much for it to all come crashing down, to be replaced by something that actually works for all of us, and the rest of life on Earth.

When will people stop thinking I’m nuts?

I’m pretty convinced that the best way to do something about the climate crisis is to talk about it. Bring it up. Plant a seed. Make people question everything. So I try to bring it up in YouTube comments, or Facebook groups, or Twitter. Even in person back when I used to talk to actual people who aren’t my family. But there are a couple of big drawbacks to this tactic.

The main one being that everyone thinks you’re nuts. I’m pretty sure Chris Packham thinks I’m nuts for posting about how dire the climate situation is on his Facebook page. I’m even more sure that Geoff Marshall is convinced I’m a lunatic since all my comments on his YouTube channel are about our existential crisis. I can’t just enjoy the videos about old trains without making it about human survival on this planet.

I’m always there to crash the party with a comment sure to depress (and sometimes actively piss off) people who just want to have a laugh at a silly video. They’re not interested in the end of the world. Why can’t I leave them alone and keep my doom and gloom to myself?

The other problem is it brings you down to Earth with a thud whenever you talk to regular people about these things. It makes you realise how far away we are from action. In our little climate semi-doomer echo chamber (which is a tiny niche within a niche), we’re talking about big ideas to save life on Earth, and we’re making changes to our lives that make us feel like we’re making a difference, even though we’re not really. And then you realise that everyone else is about 10 steps behind. It’s especially bad face to face. They talk to me about how they do their recycling, so they’re doing their part. They’re driving a hybrid car or something to that effect (just kidding – never had anyone driving a hybrid). Something so outdated that it makes me feel like giving up then and there.

But perhaps the worst thing is online when people completely ignore your comment. I’d honestly prefer someone reply to me and tell me ten reasons why I’m supposedly wrong, how nuclear power is the future, that biofuels can enable us to keep consuming as we are indefinitely, than have them completely ignore me. Sometimes I’ll go back the next day to a comment I wrote that I felt was well written, easy to comprehend and fact-filled; and I’ll find it the only one that hasn’t had a single like or reply. It’s so demoralising. I’m telling the truth, but because everyone has accepted the bullshit idea that we have 30 years to cut emissions to zero, they just give me the digital equivalent of a blank stare. And like with all the other things about society that depress me, it doesn’t seem like this will change any time soon either.

It really is pretty amazing how 40 or so years of neoliberalism has created a scenario where people who speak the truth are treated as if they’re nutcases. When you look back to before Reagan and Thatcher, everything was so truthful. Especially if you go back before World War 2. Science and facts were respected. People cared about what was true and morally right.

I know that in the end I’ll be proven right, but I don’t know if that will be able to make up for years of being treated like a weirdo when I’m just trying to inform people about what’s happening to our world. The scientists are generally pretty awful at getting the message out there, and people like Guy McPherson have effectively been de-platformed. So it makes sense for as many of us as possible to step in and spread the word on their behalf. I don’t even know if I’ve convinced anyone though. If I did plant a seed in someone’s mind and that one person later realised I was right and is now spreading the message further, then it would all be worth it. But I honestly don’t know if I have. I wish there was a way I could find out.

It feels like it’s not just me being ignored and treated as a crazy person though. It feels like anyone under 40 doesn’t matter. Who cares what we say? We’re nuts according to the establishment in this country. You want to have a fully funded healthcare system? Nuts. You want to get rid of the royal family? Preposterous. You want to change the economic system so humans can have a future on this planet? Ok that’s it. Out! Get out! Crazy kids.

When is it all going to flip on it’s head? When are they going to become the crazy ones? I can’t wait. I’m counting down the days.

Doing Something about the Climate Crisis isn’t Better than Nothing

I’m not even sure this is true any more

Recently, people often tell me that I should accept any progress that is being made towards sustainability. But I always push back on that. The climate crisis is now so dire that only huge, immediate change can give us any real hope of a future we can look forward to.

We know that we have to get emissions to zero as soon as possible, capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and deploy solar radiation management techniques. That’s what the latest science is saying. Switching to EV ownership, or slowly electrifying bus fleets over decades aren’t things I’m going to support. They’re arguably worse than doing nothing. Because when you don’t understand and consider the whole problem, and just take various measures that aren’t part of a joined-up strategy, you take your focus off of what must be done, and waste precious time as well. Two things we absolutely can’t afford.

Obviously I don’t want to actually do nothing. But if we took the time to understand the full scale of what we’re facing, society would be far more likely to come to the collective realisation that the entire system has to change.

The more I think about this, the more I realise how much of a problem it is. It applies to almost everything. From trying to build bike lanes when in reality the only thing we have time for is banning cars; to net zero carbon targets where planting forests that could later burn is seen as a solution. The entire system we have right now is just trying to present guaranteed future failure as a solution we should get behind.

It’s time we started talking about real solutions. The big solutions. Banning cars, banning domestic flights, cycling, public transport etc. The types of things that can have an impact now, when we really need it. Not in 30 years when it will be too late.